Thursday, October 22, 2020

Disabilities Bill fails to pass in parliament

The revised National Policy on Disabilities Bill of 2016 which was scheduled to be passed through Parliament this November session could not be tabled for debate by legislators as it had serious flaws, and requires almost a wholesale review.

Consequently, given the number of gaps that need to be filled to bring the proposed document to its desired standard and the processes involved, it now means that it can only be tabled before Parliament next year during the July session –  a further deferral on the plight of persons with disabilities.

Some of the issues raised for holding back the presentation include the fact that the definition of disability in the bill is not in tune with that of the United Nations Covention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities(CRPD.

Also, the aims and objectives of the policy are not explicit as to help a clear cut legal framework which both aligns with the ideals and provisions of the the CRPD and at the same time ensures such structure as would permit intergration and ease of coordination.

A stakeholder who preferred to be quoted as anonymous said, “It is no wonder, and it should perhaps be considered a blessing in disguise that it didn’t go through since a lot of affected parties had not been consulted. No one really understands what the haste is all about.”

This follows a National Disability Legal Framework Consultative Conference which took place in October where invitees had expressed concern that the time and scope of representation was not adequately reflective of the seriousness attached to the task expected of the occassion.

In that context, Cindy Kelemi, Executive Director of Botswana Network on Ethics Law and HIV and AIDS(BONELA), had pleaded at the conference,thus, “I believe there needs to be clarity on how it is going to be determined whether existing legislative pieces feed into each other, and that the outcomes of this particular consultative forum tally with what the authorities have on their desk for the drafting of a law in the shape we are imagining.”

Kelemi further suggested at the time that it would be more productive if government developed a clear roadmap of how they planned to deal with each of the various aspects of the convention, and disparities with existing legislation as well. To that end she posited that exta time was needed and a more wider and representative platform be created in the future, in order to ensure that the imput in the proposed framework was adequately reflective of the actual diversity within the world of people of disabilities,mindful of their respective environs. As typical, authorities opted to look away.

Asked to confirm whether the Bill indeed had been returned, the Coordinator of Disability Office at the Office of the President(OP) Thomas Motingwa, responded in the affirmative.

“Whilst we had thought that the document was inspired by the principles of the CRPD, our advisors advised that the definition and a number of other aspects needed to  be aligned with the convention and we have acceeded because ultimately it would not be of any use trotting back and forth to Parliament with corrections,”explained Motingwa.

He said  social protection, economic empowerment and employment are some of the aspects identified for alignment to the social model of disability. This contrasts sharply with the Botswana approach that sees people with disability as objects of medical and rehabilitative therapy. The idea is to ensure that policy as a statement of intentions categorigally guides legislation.

A UN Human Rights document, “Monitoring the CRPD” prescribes that, whilst countries cannot be precluded for adopting definitions for specific sectors of the economy or society for purposes of targetted interventions and that such should be based on the social model of disability, definitions based on a list or a description of impairments or functional limitations as in Botswana must be revised.

The latest development feeds into suspicions in some quarters that rhe current efforts by government to ammend the national policy on disabilities are borne of either presure or dishonesty to circumvent obligation to account.

Ratification of the convention and adoption of subsidiary protocols of the CRPD, and the African Protocol on People with disabilities, once effected allows individuals with disabilities feeling violated by  state parties can now assert their rights at the relevant international tribunals.

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